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Disastrous Bush Fire., Southland Times, 12 January 1887
Disastrous Bush Fire.
The Glenorchy (Lake Wakatip) correspondent of the O.D, Timei, writing on Monday, reports as follows : — Extensive bush fires, one of which has proved the most disastrous calauity which ever befell tbis district, happened here last week, when the fxteneive bash at the Head of Lake Wakatip, on the Kialoch side of the lake, caught fire, and has been raging ever since in all its fury. Tue bush >s composed of noble birch and totara tress of very considerable girth, from which the timber supply of the district his for many years been exclusively cbLained, both for mining and building purpose? ; so far down country as Clyde and Alexandra w;:s the timber ssnt, both places, as well as Ciomweli, depending upon the bush for all timber except firewood. The timber trade, which by the destruction of the bash is almost completely ruined, eraployed between 80 and 100 men, and furnished the chief cargo for the steamers trading between the Head of the Lake and Queenstown. The bush destroyed covered all ths country lying at the foot of Mount Bon Plane, extending from the Dart to th* Greenstone river, and rnea uringit along^the uadulatiocs of the ground it cannot be less than 10 miles in length. Allowing the width of the timber from the lake to its upper boundary to be 2500 ft, it may be accepted that, roughly speaking, not less than 4000 acres of valuable timber has been destroyed The 10-s cannot be computed at a money value, as it has almost completely ruined an established industry upon which bjth the farmers and the miners depend for ono of their chief supplies in tbe prosecution of their respective callings ; besides which the splendid forest with its orchids, lichens, and ferns, and | which was the chief attraction of tourists to I tbis quarter of ;tbe district, and the trees ! also formed a conspicuous aud pleasing feature in the landscape, which will be posi. ! tively disfigured. The black and bleak api pearance of the charred giant skeletons of ; what only yesterday were stately trees, swayed by the breeze in graceful movement, sheltering countless native and acclimatised birds, and ia tbe umbr*geous shades of which lovely and rare ferns and other botanical specimens of interest and value grew in profusion -all thh Ins given place to a scene of desolation and ruin, as hopeless and heartrending as only fi e could make it. The fire originated on Wednesiay last about 7 o'clock, and has been raging w« h unabated fmy ever since. There is now,, however, s;me hope that the Greenstone river, whi ;h, with its beaches and sandy bed, is nearly a mile in width, will interpjse a barrier so inciect to stop the farther progress of the conil Juration, and that thus the bush of Mount Nicholas to th? south of the Greenstone will be spared. Little m known of tho
origin of the fire,' which commenced at B'rrells in the Dart Valley, and driven by a strong north-westerly breeze, swept everything before it. The scene of the fire during the previous night is described as appalling in the extreme. It must be borne in mind that the forest covered the steep, almost precipitous, slopes of Mount Bon Plan* 1 , one t- « standing above another, and that for the p-»st three weeks tbe weather here has been the hottest and driest, aud consequently the ru^st parching upon record. Under these circumstances it was impossible, to stop the conflagra tion, and all efforts to limit it proved in vain, strenuons though the efforts and numerous as the willing hands were. Tbe smoke from the green timber was most suffocating, and many narrow escapes from the overpowering effects of the heat and smoke are recorded. A number of woodcutters' huts have been destroyed. The exact number is not known, but two families have been rendered homeless. Many of the wooden iters lost la-ge quantities of firewcoi already cut, representing months of labour. It was only with the greatest difficulty that the sawmdls and Bryant's, Hotel at Kinloch were saved, the fire reaching to the very garden fence of the bote'. The ' furniture was removed in all haste, but a change of wind saved the buildings. The tourists staying at the hotel were taken by boat to Glenorchy as a point of Baf cty. " The grandeur of the scene on the successive nights is described as both magnificent and appalling. Hundreds of acres at the same time were a roaring, seething mas« of flame, lighting up the glaciers with a spectral light before which that of the moon p.\led. Through tbe hungry sough of the flames and tbe crackling of the burning timber was heard every now and again the crash of tho falling giant trunks, and whole clusters of trees sending ap through the lurid smcke Bhowers of brilliantly glowing sparks, which in their descent resembled a train of fire. A gentleman returning from Glenorchy by steamer, who had seen some of the most gorgeous pyrotechnic displays in London assnred me that, making every allowance for the magnitude of the local fire, he had never seen a sight so truly dazzling. On Sttarlay nigbt the fire steadily crept along the ground under the shelter of the trees, suddenly to burst forth through the foliage, and with tbe roar of the increased draught consumed, in almost less time than it takes to rela'e the incident, everything withia its reach, the fUmes shooting up in a solid column of fire hundreds of feet in height. Such a scene reflected in the lake, which lay like a mirror At the foot of the awe-in-spiring spec'acle, can be better imagined than described. In the day the aspect of affairs is a very different one ; a smoky mist envelopee as in a pall the whole mountain, over the tide of wkich at short intervals columns of smoke are curling up like so many fumeroles. At Kinloch the beach is still strewn with furniture saved from the destroyed buildings and taken from the hotel. Fortunately the wind is not blowing in very constant gf.les, but is rather fitful, so that although the fire is still far from being exhausted there ia soni'J hope that it will soon cease, At present it has reached a very critical pomt — namely, tbe mouth of the Greenstone Valley, — and it simply depends upon the direction the wind may take during the next few hours, whether or not tbe whole of the Greenstone and Caples valley* will be swept clean of every vestige of timber by the fire fiend.
We have been favoured with a copy of a letter written fcby a lady* from Invercargill who is at present residing "at Kinloch. *he ■ays:— l do not know if you will have heard through the newspapers of the excitement we have had here in the shape of a bush fire. The day we came we noticed some smoke over the hill. It is supposed to have originated in a fire left burning by some one, but no one will own to it. It wis a fiae sight as long as it kept Borne distance away, but on Friday, when the house was dismantled and we had to pack up all our things hurriedly, it was rather too much. Happily, the wind blew the sparks principally up the hill and there is no very thick bush iust at the bick, so that by pouring water on the roof, breaking down fences, and extinguishing scrub, the houses were spared, though we are still living in rather pic-nic Btyle, as there is plenty of fire aU round, jus: depending on the wind as to whether it will come this way or not. It was a splendid sight last (Sunday) night, raging for miles down the bush, The beaury of Kinloch is eadiy damaged, and the small fortune of many a man burnt to ashes. It seems sad to see so much damage done through an act of carelessness.
Disastrous Bush Fire., Southland Times, 12 January 1887
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